pushing summer

The June bearing strawberries are ripe as ever, and it’s still May! Juicy strawberries and 95-degree temperatures means fruity push-up pop time in my backyard. Along with the fresh strawberries, I had a few apricots and frozen blackberries to puree in the blender. I experimented with different ratios of honey and rice milk to blend up with the fruit and even added a few layers of honeyed rice milk in between fruit layers.

Though I had to wait two hours (for hardening) between filling the flavor fields, I thought it was worth it, because the combined taste was exciting. Visually, the finished pops were like a lickable frozen homage to Mark Rothko (just don’t gaze too long, or they will melt). Perfect for this summery weather and also useful as smoothie starters to keep in the freezer. Cheers to unofficial summer!

cumin crush sweet potato strips

I have a thing for cumin right now. I cannot get enough of it with beans, rice, soup, and sweet potatoes. My recipe for baked cumin sweet potato strips is simple, spicy, tangy, sweet, and healthful all at once.  Enjoy them hot or at room temperature as a rustic snack in a mug or as a side dish on your plate.


3 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix together olive oil, vinegar, and cumin with a pastry brush.
Lightly brush parchment paper with cumin mixture.

Wash, dry, and slice sweet potatoes to desired thickness.
Place sweet potato slices on parchment paper.
Brush tops with remaining cumin mixture and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.

Bake 25-40 minutes depending on thickness of strips and your crunchiness preference.

to the class of 2012

This past weekend I clicked my heels together three times and found myself in Kansas watching my youngest cousin graduate from high school. I was reflective (and a little teary) as I sat through the graduation ceremony and recalled a Judith Thurman quote that I had taped up in my freshman dorm room that read, “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”

Happy Graduation, Ray (Master’s), Becca (Bachelor’s), Julie (High School): you each inspire me in different ways. Keep dreaming while at home and away! Love, Your Big Cousin. More graduation love to Emily and Stephanie, two dear friends that always give me a sense of home, wherever we are in the world.

camaraderie at pix patisserie

During my visit to Portland there were many cherries on top of the sweet sundae of conversation and togetherness with my cousin and her family.  One such example: the luxury of a vanilla bean honey latte and fresh macaron in the morning.  Sitting and talking in the sunlight that flooded through the garage-door windows of a cafe adorned with flocked red wallpaper, Belgian beer, jewel-toned chocolates and stuffed monkeys, my world was enlightened, comforted, and caffeinated at Pix Patisserie with Jenne.

happy mother’s day from portland

This outdoor market takes “sample day” to a whole new level. The experience would later be affectionately referred to as the morning toothpick feast. Bacon pickles, huckleberry rhubarb jam, roasted hazelnuts, vanilla & cayenne all-natural maraschino cherries, green chile corn chowder, cardamom rosewater cheesecake, dried royal ann cherries, goat cheddar, marionberry & cream cinnamon rolls, red cabbage slaw, sopressata, and more! Somehow amidst the frenzy of fine samples I managed to take a few pictures of the abundance.

Mom: I love you bunches and piles. All Mothers: may your jam jars overflow with local pleasures.

yeast-raised pancakes with ginger syrup & oranges

I never met a pancake I didn’t like, and I met a tasty new one this weekend. After flagging the recipe at SweetFineDay over a year ago, I finally got around to making Mark’s Yeast-Raised Pancakes. I remember reading the entry from the Pastry Chef of Whimsy & Spice and thinking to myself, those sound too good to be true: lighter, fluffier, slightly-yeasty pancakes that are ready to cook when you wake up?

Believe it, folks. Whip up the batter before bedtime and by morning you will find that your recipe has raised overnight! All that remains is cook time.

I burned the first few, because my skillet was too hot. After turning the dial down to between the 2 & 3, the pancakes puffed up and cooked throughout while staying golden on the tops and bottoms. The addition of ginger syrup and oranges to the yeasty pancake plate was reminiscent of a Belgian White beer brewed in orange peel. Welcome to the breakfast table at Summerflavorville.

pdx, ripe ‘n ready

I have two awesome cousin trips coming up these next two weeks. Later this month I will travel to Kansas to see my youngest cousin on my mom’s side graduate high school (proud!), and later this week I will hop on a plane to visit my oldest cousin (it’s been too long!) on my dad’s side in Oregon. I can hardly sit still I am so excited, though refilling my coffee cup each time I fill up my laundry loads may also have something to do with the extra energy.

As I was packing I realized that I was strangely out of postage stamps. So yesterday I went to the Post Office and found the commemorative Indy 500 stamps and a few others for mailing. Once I got home I cropped some paper and old fruit boxes for postcards (still inspired by the one Katie sent me) to write while I am away. The colors of the nectarine boxes seemed like a great match for Portland. I saved a few back to send to people -YOU- who read this blog. I’ll write you a postcard from Oregon if you send your mailing address to cozywalls@gmail.com.

P.S. Thanks to those of you that either commented on or talked with me about my last post. I appreciate those bloggers who wrote about specifically honest things in their entries. Like I mentioned, I am using this space to mainly dwell on cozy things. If it makes you feel better, it represents about 10% of my life. Now I will go make pancakes, and maybe I will take pictures of them too.

blackstrap molasses bran muffins, honestly

BM, BM? I did not plan for such initials when I wrote the recipe title, but it’s fitting. Filled with fiber and the honest everyday stuff that doesn’t get much fanfare on blogs (the bowels!). Creating this recipe coincides with a topic of “reality” on blogs that resulted in the recent initiative: Things I’m Afraid to Tell You.

Based on this blog, you may think that my life is all shiny nail polish and sugary cupcakes. The fact is that I struggle with a lot of the everyday stuff that many of you do. Heartbreak, disappointment, complacency, uncertainty, insomnia, and migraine headaches, to name a few. In fact, I started this blog at a particularly uncozy time in my life. The point was to focus on the GOOD TIMES. Of course, life is not always cozy, but I wanted to put my good memories together in one spot so as not to dwell on those things that are beyond my control. I wanted to share with people who might care. “Maybe it would help make their life cozy,” I thought.

It warms my heart up that there are people out there that appreciate what I put on this site, because sharing can only add to the joy in life. This blog is personal in the sense that these are honest pictures I take and thoughts I have. The pictures are minimally (if at all) edited, and my copy isn’t edited either (if you studied English, you have gathered that by now).

We all have to go to the bathroom. We all have a heart and a soul and a mind. Timing can seem like our best friend or our worst enemy. Life is not always going to be cozy, but let’s do our best. Let’s celebrate and share the good times, and eat some bran muffins every once in a while for the sake of regularity.

Blackstrap Molasses Bran Muffins

Preheat 375-degree oven.

Prepare muffin tins. Makes ~12. Keep for several days.


1 cup skim milk (non-dairy friends, use water, soy, or rice milk)
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1 egg, beaten (vegan friends, use egg replacer)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup applesauce


2 cups bran flakes cereal (gluten-free friends, use your cereal)
Let soak.

In a separate bowl, whisk or sift:

1 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free friends, use rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey (depending on your sweet tooth)

At this point I would like to recommend adding 1/2 cup of dried cherries or dark chocolate chunks to the mix for indulgence. Add-ins are not necessary, as these muffins are particularly moist and flavorful in their own right. This day my muffins were without, but you could certainly add your favorite dried fruits.

Combine everything, fill muffin tins. Bake 20 minutes, until toothpick tester comes out clean.

P.S. I learned about putting peanut butter on bran muffins from Anne Truitt. She is one of my heroes, and in her memoirs she records an evening meal of split pea soup and a toasted bran muffin with peanut butter. (Nut allergies – sunflower butter is just as tasty!)

molasses cookies with black cherry gelato

My mom’s cousin from Texas commented on my recent use of molasses: “A staple in every Hoosier’s kitchen!” On that note, I hereby declare a week of molasses recipe-sharing at cozywalls.com. These cookies come by way of my Great-Grandmother’s Sister-in-Law, Aunt Velma. Though I never knew her, I cannot mistake the smell of these cookies baking in the oven: the combination of cloves and molasses warms the soul.

When I was little, my mom would let me roll the dough balls in a bowl of sugar before placing them on the cookie sheet. For this batch I used some pretty big sparkle sugar, and the added crunch and shimmer was a delightful result (don’t be fooled by the crunch though, these cookies are also soft-middled). Usually paired with a glass of milk or mug of tea, this week at the store there was a bargain on black cherry gelato. Together with that blackstrap molasses cookie, the gelato was transformed into a black forest trifle of molasses sorts. I like to think of it as Blackstrap Forest.

Aunt Velma’s Molasses Cookies

Preheat Oven to 375-degrees

Mix together:
3/4 cups shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
about 2 cups flour

Roll in balls “the size of walnuts” and dip in sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes.